This month we had zero Thumbs Down titles.
This could be because I am too generous or it could be because something that bad just can’t make it into print. Unlike say the movie industry which will peddle any old baloney.
We had six No Thumbs titles.
This is more than I expected. Maybe I am not generous enough.
Tozzer: Peckerwood 24 Minutes
Avengers Next: Rebirth
The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch
We had twenty-one Thumbs Up titles so it’s great to see the majority of stuff being well worth reading.
Superman: True Brit
When the Wind Blows
Another Suburban Romance
Wonderland: Children of the Future Age
The Ballad of Doctor Richardson
The Cobbler’s Monster
Tozzer and the Invisible Lap Dancers
Squadron Supreme: The Pre-War Years
Black Lightning: Year One
Batman: The Killing Joke
Surprisingly we four Double Thumbs Up titles. I definitely have no hesitation in recommending these excellent works.
Fell: Feral City
If I were to choose just one work then my head would probably explode as they all appeal in different ways. The Pro or Feral City call to my warped sensibilities most. Xombie for the younger readers certainly and London’s Dark for the older readers. People who read things like Eagle and Scream way back in the day.
Origin stories, particularly alternate origin stories are popular fare. The Superman story Red Son sees him grow up in Russia. True Brit has him fall to earth in Britain and raised as Colin Kent. But this is not the Britain any of its natives would recognise but the cosy, quaint, repressed Britain that comes from the American mind. John Cleese is credited as one of the creators and you can see the slapstick of Python and Fawlty Towers in there.
There isn’t much of a story here and there fun comes from spotting how the American characters translate into a farcical British setting. Disturbingly the whole work seems to be a thinly veiled attack on the newspaper industry. Very thinly veiled at times. It seems like someone had an axe to grind and wasn’t clever about doing it.
The art is perfectly serviceable and harks back to the style of popular British comics such as the Beano and Whizzer & Chips but with infinitely more colour. It is a nice idea and interesting to see how the familiar is relocated with some appalling puns thrown in. It is a Thumbs Up, but barely.
Tomorrow: Crossed – Garth Ennis
This is an account of the Battle of Crecy in 1346. It combines the styles of Horrible Histories, and a healthy dose of Blackadder. It appears largely accurate and gives a broad account of the politics, society and warfare of the time. It is narrated by a common English archer who spends most of his time talking to us but occasionally grumbles to, or insults, his compatriots.
The Englishman is a cross between the loveable Tommy and the modern day football hooligan. You learn a lot or remember much depending on when you went to school. It is entertaining and thought-provoking as there a number of modern day parallels to be found.
The art is superb. It is black and white line but with masterful shading. The figures are modern but the overall feel is that of a historical woodcut or period document. It is aptly chosen and superbly executed. Maps pop up every now and then to help the reader and there is a big map of Crecy in both the centre spread and inside cover. The most impressive scenes are those at night which switch to white on black inverting the daytime style.
This is a short, concise work, everything a history lesson should be. Although told from the English point of view the narrator admits he’s a xenophobic fellow living in an age before political correctness so you can take its one-sided nature into account. It is very nice to see the remit of the graphic novel stretched and who better to do it than Warren Ellis. One Thumb or two fingers (your choice) Up!
Tomorrow: Superman: True Brit – Kim Johnson
The introduction to this work, originally published in 1988, has David Lloyd (the V for Vendetta artist) telling us exactly what the comics medium needs right now and how pleased he is to have found a title that meets that need. It is undoubtedly an incredible piece of work. The testimonials from luminaries such as Terry Jones, Michael Moorcock, Peter Lovesey, Archie Goodwin, Ramsey Campbell and Jonathan Ross to be found on the back cover echo this praise.
The cover looks like an adventure serial from World War 2. The typeface, layout, art, 2d price tag and the fake wear and tear make it appear that this is something that has been dug out of your attic not purchased new. Initially when I saw it on eBay I thought it was an old comic. This attention to detail seeps right through the whole work. Period newspapers, cigarette cards and photographs have all been seamlessly blended into the artwork giving an authentic scrapbook feel to it.
The writing, the plot, and the characters all join together to evoke a supreme atmosphere and give you an experience that is as close to seeing the action for yourself as possible. It is an incredibly immersive journey. At its heart is a sophisticated story of love, war, life, death, crime and the supernatural with some beautiful characters. The dialogue is quite sophisticated. When you see the two main characters talking you also see their internal monologues playing out at the same time. This might get confusing but with some clever lettering techniques you know who’s who and it really strengthens your emotional connection to them.
The art is grainy black and white that is highly evocative of the period and subject matter. The style is infinitely fluid from double page spreads, to tiny thumbnails and even traditional panels all changing to utilise the best technique required. At one point when some lengthy exposition has to take place the art disappears altogether and you have a typed narrative spoken by one of the protagonists. This is a brave and necessary move to keep the pace flowing and not bloat the page count with endless speech bubbles and talking heads.
In short this is one of the finest and most courageous works I have read in some time and it is my pleasure to give it a Double Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Crecy – Warren Ellis
The best thing about having a voice on the internet is that you can use it spotlight deserving people. So I am going to give a shout out to the fine folks at MOMBcomics. Not just because they gave me a mention, but because their website genuinely deserves one.
They are a bunch of down to earth geeks who can write and converse intelligently about comics and geekdom in general. They don’t have an axe to grind, a message to push (other than to support the talented) and their site isn’t plagued by adverts.
They feature a wide range of comics and movies too. They also have a weekly podcast which is the source of all sorts of info. There are definitely a couple of titles I am going to check out based on their recommendations and I learnt about a great comic convention that you should attend.
Incidentally a podcast – for those who only read and never listen – is like a drunken pub conversation that veers wildly off into tangents and breaks out into spontaneous humour. It isn’t like a polished and concise radio show but this lends it much more authenticity. You tend to believe what people are saying when it hasn’t been scripted. These are personal feelings and judgements. When you have a number of contributors you get some great discussions and debates making for a richer point of view. And it is great company while ironing, washing-up or walking to the supermarket.
So check out their podcast. You can listen to it on the site or download it and put it on your mediaplayer. Start with their review of 2011 then check out the others. These are the only people I have ever seen who give you a running order of their recordings so you can jump right in or back to items that interest you. This earns them the coveted 365 Thumbs Up!
This is a reprint of a story serialised in 2000AD and it’s a cracking read. With a British writer and artist everything feels authentic and the jokes and cultural references are genuinely relevant. It’s not heady sci-fi and there is no deep message but this is a great cinematic romp.
It was fun to read, excellently illustrated and has a protagonist you can root for – you just wouldn’t lent him any money. It made me smile and so I definitely give it a Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: London’s Dark – James Robinson & Paul Johnson
Well the hope of slipping through this year unnoticed by the outside world (other than by wretched spammers) has just been vaporised.
Those fine folks at Monkey on My Back mentioned this very site in their excellent weekly podcast. Have a listen.
Bah! I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky kids.
Every so often something arrives that just defies description. Like trying to put a cat in a box it just won’t be neatly pigeonholed. It’s kind of an Arthurian grail quest set in steam/ cyberpunk post apocalypse future wild west. With me so far?
It’s a delicate balance between Mad Max, Firefly, and Wild Wild West – but with some Fraggle Rock thrown in there too. It is only 46 pages so you barely get time to grasp the mishmash of genres before it hits the buffers. Sadly it doesn’t look like there will be any more but there are some novels set in this universe and there is enough to intrigue you about this brave new world to want to learn more.
I was genuinely surprised by the setting and so I will give it a Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Thirteen – Mike Carey
This starts off as a competent if slow moving tale following a successful woman with a taste for extreme sports. You think it’s going down the normal people wake up with superpowers/ great destiny route and then with a subtle twist it ends up somewhere different.
It has a classic Empire Strikes Back ending leaving you feeling you have only had the starter and are being cheated out of your main course. As far as I can tell there is no volume 2 so you will have to imagine the sequel that never was.
The art is clear and colourful and suited to the genre. There are no groundbreaking techniques and most of the story comes from the telling and not the showing which is a waste of the format. I did find the narration text (“meanwhile…” “elsewhere…” “ten minutes later..” etc.) a bit intrusive. There are some thematic letters, posters and so on between the issues much like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen but they don’t really add anything.
Another one that falls into the “Meh” category sadly. There is nothing wrong with it but it’s just not the next Watchmen. No Thumbs today sadly.
Tomorrow: Rail – Dave Dorman
This is a series of three digest volumes making up one whole story. This really is exceptionally well crafted. Plot, characters, dialogue and pace are all sublime. It is both a page turner and an effortless read making it over all too quickly sadly. There are a couple of stories and they are interweaved in such a way it does not seem contrived.
The art is very clean black and white line drawings and suits the murky subject matter very well. There are some flashbacks and the art changes helping you see what is happening in the present day and what is a memory.
Some of the plot is given away by the blurb on the back of the books and the cover illustrations which I found disappointing. Other than that it’s very rewarding to put all the pieces together. The central character is well developed and believable and it’s fun to root for him. Thumbs up!
Tomorrow: Innocents – David Wohl